By Kyle Austin
July 22nd, 2009
I’ve just arrived at the Langham in Pasadena as we prepare for the kick-off to Fortune’s annual Brainstorm: TECH conference on Wednesday. It’s sure to be an interesting week with the likes of Barry Diller, Tim Armstrong and even Ashton Kutcher taking part.
Day 1 highlights will include Richard Siklos’ conversation with Robert Iger, President and CEO of the Walt Disney Company on how he’s navigating the new digital universe in these tough economic times. A theme, that will be echoed across the conversations here this week with organizers focusing on the global crisis and the opportunity it presents.
Fresh out of Sun Valley (where the mood was gloomy), Iger is navigating the choppy waters as the second highest earning media CEO (second only to Leslie Moonves), and will be closely listened to Wednesday as a barometer for where the media industry currently stands.
Stephanie Mehta, Fortune’s technology editor, expressed her interest in hearing what Iger has to say earlier this week.
“I’m looking forward to hearing concrete ideas and solutions on how innovation can help pull the US and other countries out of recession, she said. ” Bob Iger of Disney and Bill Gross of Idealab are very accomplished deep thinkers and i’m interested in what they’re going to say about innovation and what role it can play in recovery.”
Mehta is a co-chair of the conference with David Kirkpatrick and Adam Lashinsky, however she explained that it was a team effort in pulling together an agenda that includes a “who’s who list” of the media, technology, health and entertainment industries.
“It was a real team effort in pulling this together. Although David (he’s the guru of this conference), Adam and I are the co-chairs, everyone on the technology team (Jessi Hempel, Jon Fortt, Jeff O’Brien, Michael Copeland) played a role.”
Additional conversations to watch tomorrow will be Marc Andreessen, Co-founder and General Partner of the newly formed VC house Andreessen Horowitz, talking with Lashinsky; and Siklos leading a conversation with Dave Maisel, chairman of Marvel Studios; Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment; and Robert Wiesenthal, executive vice president & CFO of Sony Corporation.
Andreessen will also have a new round of funding for Ning to promote.
Mehta also pointed out to me earlier this week that the new Brainstorm: TECH Start-up Idol will likely be a hit Wednesday night, given that Lashinsky is hosting (His wit and sarcasm made the blogger panel a hit last year). The American Idol-themed contest will essentially be a speed dating showcase matching prospective start-ups with veteran VC’s like Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital.
Fortune is using the conference as a peg to consolidate their online coverage going forward on a new Fortune Brainstorm: tech blog / online site, which will house their technology coverage year round. That move has also opened up Fortune.com to comments (finally!). Some of which, weren’t very positive in the beginning, as Apple 2.0 fans found themselves directed to a new site and feed.
However, when casting aside some of the initial hick-ups, the move is a positive one in terms of engagement and could assist Fortune with cementing “Brainstorm” as their tech editorial brand.
“What we wanted to do was highlight the best of our technology coverage. Before it was living on both the CNNMoney.com and Fortune.com sites, Mehta noted. “It’s a chance to showcase this work and give a little more flexibility to our writers to comment on breaking news. If Facebook changes a user agreement Jessi Hempel can post in real-time while it’s happening. We’re really trying to build a brand around Brainstorm: TECH, making it a destination where you go to get the latest quality journalism and analysis on technology news.”